Surplus 101st Airborne M17: Differences Between Army and Civilian SIGs

Today we are looking at one of the surplus US Army M17 pistols that SGI put on the commercial market about 3 years ago. These were some of the very first M17s issued to Army units, and they were turned back in to SIG and replace in late 2019. The obvious difference between these and their replacements was the change from tan to black controls. Apparently those tan controls worn more quickly than the black, and the Army opted to change to black. Whether there were any internal modifications made after the first few thousand guns were issued us open to speculation. It would not be surprising to me if there were (this sort of thing almost always happens when a new design is first put into mass circulation), but neither SIG nor the Army has said anything to that effect.

Beyond the control colors, the Army-issued M17s have several differences from the civilian-sale P320s and M17 commemorative editions. Specifically, the Army guns have:

– Heavier slides
– Heavier recoil springs (they are intended for a long service life of all +P ammunition)
– Two extra recoil lug holes in the red dot mounting plate
– Unified rear sight and red dot cover plate
– Different slide and barrel markings

The availability of genuine surplussed Army firearms is really a rarity these days. The value of these M17s has already increased 3-4x from when they were originally released, and I have no doubt they will continue to climb.


  1. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to the surplus M17 pistols that is a wealth of knowledge about them. They are trying to track down every single one of them, and they’ve done a pretty good job of cataloging a large number of them. I was lucky to pick one up a few years ago and have had a few eye-popping experiences watching the prices creep up.

    • I worked with a guy who was an MP during desert storm. he was the guy that searched everyone’s bags for firearms…but no one searched HIS.

      he wanted to sell me a really nice early Browning Hi Power that had been engraved and gold plated, for cheap money. I was very interested. then he said “hey, would you like to buy some grenades?”

      my mind said “this is a trap” and I avoided him after that.

      • Odds are that he was CID, or CID-adjacent.

        They usually police the ranks pretty well with the MPs doing the Customs job, knowing the temptations they would be prey to. I’ve heard of some of those guys missing stuff on inspections, but outright participation and/or smuggling? I would have to express doubt on that call, but maybe I’m naive and just ran into a higher form of MP life than the average.

  2. Word to the wise… If you buy one of these, or win the contest: Document, document, document.

    It’d be my guess that there are excellent odds that these guns were never removed from the Joint Services registry, which is infamous for its inaccuracy. If you ever have a reason for someone to run your pistol against that registry…? You may well pop as having a pistol that is still government-owned. With the expected result on your legal status, should you not be able to actually prove that fact yourself.

    Been there, done that with other bits and pieces of current military former inventory. Do not put your faith in them getting this stuff right, especially on the first take. I’ve personally experienced having weapons that were supposedly still on the registry, yet which were coded out and sent to the shredders/furnaces at Rock Island Arsenal. The problem you have is that the law enforcement types take whatever they’re told as being gospel truth, and the maintenance/property accountability types are considerably more cavalier about the records and their accuracy.

    I’d wager that if someone were to show up with that pistol in a couple of years at an Army installation and come to the attention of the Military Police, the fact that a FOIA today shows what Ian recites today…? That what they might come up with would be considerably different.

    I’ve been told that there were several different versions of that database, and that what results you got out of it would depend greatly on how you phrased your search terms. It’d be your luck of the draw, legally, on what that database told your arresting/investigating officer.

    Not saying you’d necessarily regret buying one of this, but that you might want to secure yourself against future prosecution for having stolen military property by documenting the living hell out of your purchase. Don’t trust the DOD record, in other words.

    • What specific documentation would you suggest? These were shipped from the military directly back to Sig, according to the FOIA documentation I have for mine. Surely I’m not expected to have the documentation for that transfer on hand.

      • A verified copy of the FOIA ought to suffice, as well as the sales receipt from whoever you purchased from.

        The problem with these things is that the people you have to worry about are the “lowest common denominator” types out in the law enforcement community. Let’s say you were to ask a Property Book Officer who was familiar with the Joint Services registry about whether or not someone ought to be prosecuted for having something that “pops” on that registry; he’d likely laugh in your face and tell you some war stories about highly improbable things he had witnessed regarding the accuracy of said registry. Were you to ask a junior JAG officer, with the typical naive trust they place in databases? It’d likely be “Book ’em, Dano!!!”, and he’d walk away fully convinced that he was a hero that day, and you were a confirmed criminal.

        A lot of the law enforcement types are entirely too convinced of the infallibility of any of these databases. I was on the edges of a case where they ruined a young man’s career as a commissioned officer, charging him with theft of a Chinese SKS that had been registered on a different post and been stolen when he was a kid in grade school. He tried registering his (that he didn’t have purchase records for…) and they ran the SN over at the Provost Marshal’s office. Cue call to his commander, JAG’s involvement, and not a damn person wanted to hear me tell them that the odds of there being an exactly identical four-number serial number on a Chinese SKS were pretty damn good, because they actually weren’t serial numbers, per se, without the manufacturer’s marking and date codes included…

        As I recall, they got as far as scheduling his court-martial before I left that assignment, and I’d advised him to find a lawyer familiar with the way those things were actually imported, which was arcane as all hell. His military-appointed lawyers were useless, suggesting that he take a plea deal. The whole thing was nuts, and coupled with other experiences I’ve had with regards to any databases like that…? I’m not a trusting sort. At. All.

        So long as you’ve got documentation, and you keep it with the pistol? You should be 100% OK. Can’t produce it when you come to their attention, and the database spits up that the pistol was once government property? That may or may not result in legal misadventure for you. It’s all dependent on whoever is looking at things, I’m afraid.

  3. This comment is not related to the contest per se; but rather to the merchandise that I bought to be entered… I have been a subscriber to Ian’s YouTube channel for many years now, and have nothing but respect and admiration for the way he has evolved it into one of the best gun-related channels on the Internet! Not being one who wins contest very often, I rarely enter them, especially if I have to spend money to do so, LOL! I don’t know if he will read this eventually, but the merchandise I bought to enable my entry into the contest seemed pretty cool; a “Death From Above – 101st Airborne” coffee cup! For “only” $49.95! But I was okay with the price, seeing’s how I was going to be supporting his endeavors…

    When it came in, I excitedly opened the package, and was admiring the quality graphics, etc.; then I turned it over and discovered to my extreme dismay and disappointment that it was MADE IN CHINA!!!

    I totally understand the economics of running a business and maximizing profits wherever you can, but I feel great umbrage and even, to some extent, embarrassment to have a cup dedicated to one of the most famous units of the United States Army, that was made and has contributed to the arming of one of the greatest threats to our security in the world today!

    I don’t know what to do with this cup now; send it back, break it up into small pieces and throw it away… my Dad was in the Navy (WWII era), my Father-In-Law was in a unit that was over-run by the Chinese in Korea, I am a 6 year Air Force Viet-Nam era vet, one of my sons is a 4 year Air Force veteran; maybe you can understand where I’m coming from? If I could email Ian directly, maybe he could advise me on a course of action, maybe not; but I just had to get this off my chest…

  4. Use it for target practice. You’ve already supported the channel so you can do whatever makes you happy with it. I still won’t buy anything made in Vietnam because, yes, I still hold a grudge.

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